Funding Postgraduate Study through Charity

By Lucy Atkinson.

charity© thinglass - Fotolia.jpg
charity© thinglass - Fotolia.jpg
Charitable funding for postgraduate
study is an often untapped source.

It's a shame that more students don't apply to charities to fund their studies – it's a vital but neglected source which is sorely needed by students facing spiralling fees and maintenance costs. 

I'd advise any graduate thinking of studying at postgraduate level to strongly consider following your plan and dream. If money is the only barrier, it can be alleviated with determination and perseverance. Charity funding might seem a bit 'old fashioned' and obscure, but it’s also an incredible source, and too often overlooked by students.

I'm a PhD student from the University of Northampton. Shortly after being accepted for my course, I began researching for awards and funding.

  • I wasn't entirely eligible for research council awards, and was quite baffled as to from where my funding would come.
  • I initially tried with university internal funding awards, and applied to them all. Then, my mother spotted the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding from an article on the Guardian website. I bought it, read it, and followed all the tips.
  • I have applied for over 20 awards, and have cast the net far and wide looking for further funding – online and in local newspapers and companies.  

To date, I've won eight awards and ended up gaining around £6,000 for the first year of my PhD.

  • Among the charities that supported me were the Sidney Perry Foundation, Merchant Navy Educational Trust, and the Dorothy Johnson Charity.
  • One of my most unusual funders was the Swallowdale Children’s Charity which is really for younger children in need. This award was featured in a local newspaper in the village in Lancashire I grew up in. Rather than telling me I wasn't eligible, the charity in fact seemed to be delighted to be helping a young adult researching a PhD.
  • The Merchant Navy Educational Trust was also an unusual award, which I was eligible for because my father has been in the Merchant Navy for over 20 years.
  • Both these unusual funders really brought home to me that help can come from the most unusual places if you are prepared to look hard for it, and are persuasive enough!

The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding is a social enterprise which is all about helping students gain funding from obscure charity sources.

  • A lot of money in the UK is tied up in odd charitable trusts, and most people don't know about them.
  • They are often bizarre and colourful – for example, the Leatherseller's Trust (for people with a link to the leather trade), the Kentish Charitable Trust for people with the surname Kentish, or the Mike Collingwood Fund, which is for people who live within a 7 mile radius of a pub in Kent!

The director of the Alternative Guide enterprise, Luke Blaxill funded his entire PhD through these odd charities and was featured in the Guardian as 'the student who got £40,000' a couple of years ago.

  • The guide started life six years ago as a short essay about charity fundraising for students.
  • It's since grown into a major online resource.
  • The Guide is free for over half the students in the UK (those whose universities subscribes to it). Check out www.postgraduate-funding.com/ to read more about it.

The Alternative Guide is a blueprint for success in the area of charitable funding for postgraduate study – giving you the advice, tools, and guidance that you need to tread this more unusual path to funding, and even uncover others of your own!